This game really put us through the wringer across the entire spectrum of emotions — from the elation of home runs off the bats of Aaron Judge and Kyle Higashioka to the annoyance of unnecessary late-inning delays to the tension of one-run drama in the ninth . At the end of the day, all that matters is a Yankees win, and that was the end result.
This was always going to be a tough matchup facing Rays ace Shane McClanahan, a notion confirmed when he burst out of the gate firing his A-game stuff. That, however, was of little consequence to the Judge, who lined a 3-2 hanging curveball oppo over the short porch to spot the Yankees an early 1-0 lead. In a game where the stars were likely to dictate the outcome, Judge’s star shone brightest on Homer No. 25.
Even though they struggled to string together multiple baserunners against McClanahan early, the Yankees made him work, driving up his pitch count to 42 through the end of the second. Unfortunately, Gleyber Torres und some of that work, attempting to steal a second while McClanahan still had the ball on the mound, TOOTBLAN’ing his way to an inning-ending caught stealing.
On the other side of the ball, Nestor Cortes was dealing, showing no hangover from his worst outing of the year last time out against the Twins. He allowed just one hit through the first five innings — a Yandy Díaz double in the third — while striking out four.
The first crack appeared in McClanahan’s armor in the fifth, and the Yankees took full advantage. Josh Donaldson reached second with no out on a dropped fly ball by replacement center fielder Brett Phillips, who took over for Kevin Kiermaier in the third. Torres moved Donaldson to third, but Aaron Hicks struck out for the second time to bring Isiah Kiner-Falefa to the plate with two outs.
After McClanahan fell behind 3-0, the Rays intentionally walked IKF to face Higashioka. The light-hitting catcher apparently took it personally, because he beat McClanahan to the spot on a 1-0 fastball up and in, sending a 369 foot bomb into the seats in left to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead.
Just when it seemed like Cortes was falling into a groove that could carry him into the later innings, a brain-fart single brought his start to a screeching halt in the sixth. After giving up a leadoff double to Díaz, he took his eye off a throw back to the mound, getting donked in the head by the ball. He compounded his error by waiting for a teammate to clean up his mistake, allowing Díaz to advance to third.
It appeared that Cortes was distracted after the incident, giving up an RBI double to Manuel Margot followed by a walk to Randy Arozarena. Just like that, his outing him was over with the lapse in concentration probably costing him a shot at completing the inning. Wandy Peralta came in to get the final two outs, as well as a clean seventh, striking out three in the process.
It’s hard to know how to evaluate this start from Cortes. On one hand, he was dominant for long stretches, getting whiffs with the four-seamer and cutter. On the other, to see his concentration go so quickly in a big spot was concerning. His final line: 5.1 innings, three hits, one run, three walks, and four strikeouts on 91 pitches.
Miguel Castro came on in relief of Peralta in the eighth and treated us to a prototypical Castro outing, getting two quick outs before losing all command of his pitches. He allowed a two-out double to Margot and then hit Arozarena to put a pair on. This is where things got weird.
Matt Blake came out for a mound visit, after which the Rays announced lefty Ji-Man Choi would pinch-hit for Isaac Paredes. This led Aaron Boone to ask Higashioka to stall while Lucas Luetge warmed up in the bullpen. Boone came out to make the pitching change, but the umpires collectively forgot Rule 5.10(I)(1-4)which allows a second mound visit during the same plate appearance.
We were then forced to sit and watch the umps dither around while awaiting word from the MLB office before they finally allowed the pitching change to be made. In came Luetge, who proceeded to give up back-to-back soft contact RBI singles to Choi and René Pinto, suddenly cutting the Yankees lead to 4-3. Luetge then finally get Phillips to fly out, bringing to an end easily the most annoying half-hour most of us have hardened this week.
Clay Holmes came out to close out the ninth amid reports that Aaron Boone would not commit to keeping him in the closer role once Aroldis Chapman returns. He did what he’s been doing all year, navigating around a leadoff Taylor Walls single to nail down the save and secure the Yankees’ 4-3 victory. That makes it six wins in a row for the Bombers and their 13th win straight at Yankee Stadium — a mark that hadn’t been achieved in almost 50 years.
The Yankees go for the sweep tomorrow evening with Luis Severino set to face “somewhat of an opener” Jalen Beeks (replacing the now-IL’d Drew Rasmussen). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 pm ET, so be sure to join us in the game thread.